Cristiano Ronaldo should have won the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award instead of Virgil van Dijk, Juventus vice president Pavel Nedved has suggested.

Defender Van Dijk triumphed at Thursday's ceremony having played a key part in Liverpool's Champions League triumph last term and Netherlands' run to the Nations League final.

Ronaldo appeared in good spirits despite being overlooked for the prize, joking with old rival Lionel Messi in a stage-side interview.

Nedved, though, was in no doubt over which of the nominated trio should have been given the trophy.

"I expected Ronaldo's victory, but we accept everything," he said to Sky Sport Italia.

Ronaldo hit a hat-trick to steer Juve through a Champions League last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid last season and the two clubs will meet again in the 2019-20 group stage.

The Serie A champions will also face Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow in Group D.

"A tough round, not easy, but there are no easy matches in the Champions League," Nedved said. "We have changed a lot, we have a new coach and players, but I am convinced that we can do well."

Juve coach Maurizio Sarri is yet to lead his team from the dugout in a competitive game after contracting pneumonia.

He missed a 1-0 win at Parma on the opening weekend and will be absent again for Saturday's visit of old club Napoli.

Nedved, though, believes the former Chelsea boss will be ready to take his place when Juve face Fiorentina on September 14, ahead of their first Champions League group game the following week.

"It was right that, for these first two Serie A matches, he should be left to recover: with pneumonia, there is no joking," he said. 

"I think we will see him back on the bench immediately after the international break."

Virgil van Dijk has won UEFA's Player of the Year award.

The Liverpool defender took the honour ahead of Barcelona captain Lionel Messi and Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Van Dijk's arrival from Southampton made him the world's most expensive defender and he helped repay his fee by starring as the Reds won Champions League glory last term.

"I need to thank all my team-mates and the staff. I wouldn't have achieved what I have over the last year [without them], my family of course, it's been a long road but it's part of my journey, who I am," Van Dijk said.

"I had to work hard every step of the way, it's part of me and I'm happy about that. I'm proud to get that trophy and it's a credit to everyone who helped me along the way.

The Netherlands international is considered a leading contender to win this year's Ballon d'Or, which has not been given to a defender since Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro triumphed in 2006 having led the Azzurri to World Cup glory.

Taking the Women's Player of the Year award was England right-back Lucy Bronze, who beat out Lyon team-mates Ada Hegerberg and Amandine Henry.

UEFA also handed out positional awards for male players, with Van Dijk landing Champions League Defender of the Season recognition in addition to taking the top prize.

Midfielder of the Season went to Frenkie de Jong for his performances in Ajax's stunning run to the semi-finals, while Forward of the Season was given to Messi.

Champions League holders Liverpool have learned their opponents for the 2019-20 group stage, with Jurgen Klopp's side facing Napoli again.

The Reds were placed in Group B, which also includes Salzburg and Genk, when Thursday's draw was made in Monaco.

Inter's return to the Champions League saw them placed along with Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund in a daunting Group F, which also includes Slavia Prague.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid's bid to recapture their crown will see Zinedine Zidane's men take on Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, as well as Club Brugge and Galatasaray.

Champions League group stage draw in full:

Group A: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Club Brugge, Galatasaray

Group B: Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Olympiacos, Red Star Belgrade

Group C: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo, Atalanta

Group D: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow

Group E: Liverpool, Napoli, Salzburg, Genk

Group F: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter, Slavia Prague

Group G: Zenit, Benfica, Lyon, RB Leipzig

Group H: Chelsea, Ajax, Valencia, Lille

Holders Liverpool have been drawn with Napoli in the Champions League group stages, while Real Madrid will face Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid and PSG will also meet Club Brugge and Galatasaray in Group A, with the action set to get underway on September 17 and 18, while the final will be played in Istanbul on May 30.

Liverpool's attempt to defend their title will see Jurgen Klopp's Reds come up against Napoli, Salzburg and Genk in Group E.

Meanwhile, beaten finalists Tottenham are in Group B with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, as well as Greek giants Olympiacos and Red Star Belgrade.

The strongest group is arguably F, where Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Antonio Conte's Inter are joined by Slavia Prague.

Perhaps the most open is Group G,where Russian champions Zenit are in with Benfica, Lyon and RB Leipzig.

Juventus take on Atletico Madrid in a repeat of last season's quarter-final in Group D, where Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow were also placed.

Manchester City, among the favourites for the tournament, take on familiar foes in the form of Shakhtar Donetsk, along with Dinamo Zagreb and tournament debutants Atalanta.

Europa League winners Chelsea meet last term's semi-finalists Ajax in Group H, with those sides meeting in European competition for the first time. Valencia and Lille complete that section.

Thomas Tuchel has admitted he cannot be sure Neymar will remain a Paris Saint-Germain player when the transfer window closes.

The PSG boss said on Thursday he intends to continue overlooking the Brazil forward for selection until there is clarity about his future.

Neymar has been strongly linked with a return to LaLiga with his former club Barcelona, just two years after swapping clubs in a world-record €222million deal, while Real Madrid are also rumoured to hold an interest.

The 27-year-old returned to training earlier this month after recovering from an injury sustained prior to the Copa America, but he has yet to feature for his club in 2019-20 and will once again be left out against Metz on Friday.

"His situation has not changed since the Toulouse match," Tuchel said, when asked for an update on the long-running transfer saga at Thursday's news conference.

"All I can say is that I am calm, relaxed. The world of football can be crazy. Now is not the time to lose our heads. Anything could happen. Perhaps nothing will change.

"It is a bit late to impose a deadline. We will see on September 2."

The transfer window for major mainland European clubs remains open until Monday and a delegation from Barcelona was reportedly in Paris earlier this week to discuss a deal.

However, PSG are said to have rejected the Spanish champions' latest offer of €150m in instalments plus Ivan Rakitic and Ousmane Dembele, who Tuchel worked with at Borussia Dortmund.

"Dembele? We know each other. A lot of things are said," Tuchel told reporters.

"I will not speak about a player from another club. He is under contract. I will not be speaking about him today."

It could be a busy conclusion to the transfer window for PSG, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas being tipped to join. 

"I cannot confirm anything," Tuchel said. "Alphonse Areola will be in goal against Metz. Marcin Bulka will be his number two."

PSG lost Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Abdou Diallo to injury in the 4-0 win against Toulouse last time out and are also still without Julian Draxler, Thilo Kehrer and Ander Herrera, meaning a recall to the squad for outcast forward Jese Rodriguez.

The clock continues to wind down on the transfer window and Barcelona are no closer to reaching an agreement for Neymar.

Neymar wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain and Barca want to re-sign the world's most expensive player.

But meeting PSG's needs prior to Monday's deadline is proving difficult for the LaLiga champions.

 

TOP STORY – PSG SAY NO TO BARCA… AGAIN

Paris Saint-Germain have rejected Barcelona's latest offer for wantaway superstar Neymar, according to RMC.

Barca reportedly offered PSG €150million in instalments plus Ousmane Dembele and Ivan Rakitic.

However, PSG turned down the proposal and only want cash, not an exchange.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are holding off on signing a striker as they eye Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, reports the Evening Standard. With Alexis Sanchez set to join Romelu Lukaku at Inter, free agent Fernando Llorente has emerged as a possible solution to improve United's forward options. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is believed to be holding out for Sancho.

- AS claims Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are negotiating a swap deal involving Keylor Navas and Alphonse Areola. Navas wants to leave the Santiago Bernabeu and the Costa Rica goalkeeper has reportedly agreed terms with Ligue 1 champions PSG.

Napoli are putting their move for Llorente on ice as they wait on Inter outcast Mauro Icardi. Llorente has been linked to Napoli, however, Sky Sport Italia and Sportitalia report Carlo Ancelotti's side will hold on until Friday for Icardi to accept an exit from Inter.

- Goal.com says Mario Mandzukic has turned down the chance to join Paris Saint-Germain from Juventus. The Croatia international, who was linked to Manchester United, wants to fight it out in Turin until January.

Angel Correa's proposed move to AC Milan is stalling over a transfer fee, according to Marca. The Atletico Madrid attacker is valued at €40m but Milan have only offered €25m.

- According to Gianluca Di Marzio, Serie A side Sassuolo are interested in signing Chelsea's Kenedy, who spent last season on loan at Newcastle United.

- Valencia have asked for Napoli full-back Elseid Hysaj on loan with the option to buy, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. It comes after Cristiano Piccini suffered a knee injury.

- Monaco striker Radamel Falcao is close to joining Turkish giants Galatasaray on a three-year deal, says L'Equipe.

UEFA has confirmed the seedings for Thursday's Champions League draw with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund all in pot two.

Champions League holders Liverpool are in the top pot along with fellow Premier League sides Manchester City and Chelsea, as well as league winners Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

Zenit complete the pot one line-up as the Russian Premier League champions are designated by UEFA to be given a place among the other top seeds.

That means last season's beaten finalists Tottenham go into pot two with the two Madrid clubs, as well as Napoli, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica and Ajax – the 2018-19 semi-finalists who beat APOEL in the play-off round to secure qualification.

Club Brugge and Slavia Prague also came through the play-off round on Wednesday and they have been placed in the third and fourth pots respectively.

The draw will be made at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, with the group stage set to get under way in mid-September while this season's final is scheduled for May 30 in Istanbul.

Pot one: Barcelona, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Zenit

Pot two: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Tottenham, Shakhtar Donetsk, Ajax, Benfica

Pot three: Lyon, Bayer Leverkusen, Salzburg, Olympiacos, Club Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, Inter, Valencia

Pot four: Lokomotiv Moscow, Genk, Red Star Belgrade, RB Leipzig, Lille, Atalanta, Slavia Prague, Galatasaray

Lionel Messi is the player Rafael Benitez most wishes he could have worked with and the Spanish coach says he and the Barcelona talisman speak the same football language.

Benitez named Franz Beckenbauer, Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer as the former players he would have relished the chance to coach, but among current players Messi stands out for the former Real Madrid boss.

Messi featured in Barcelona's 4-0 LaLiga victory over Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu during Benitez's time in charge of Los Blancos, and the newly appointed Dalian Yifang coach said he had a meeting of minds with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"Maybe Messi," replied Benitez when asked which player he wished he could manage in a fans' Q&A on The Athletic.

"He is so good that I could maybe just have sat on the sidelines and enjoyed watching him play!

"When he trained at the Manchester City training ground with Argentina, I had a conversation with him and we spoke the same language – about football, too."

Benitez took his first coaching role outside Europe when he was confirmed as the new boss of Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang in July.

Many Newcastle United supporters were disappointed to see the 59-year-old leave St James' Park but he said he would like to come back to the Premier League in the future.

As well as being popular on Tyneside, Benitez is fondly thought of on Merseyside where he guided Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005 and a second-placed Premier League finish in 2008-09.

When asked which current Liverpool player he would have liked in his 2008-09 team, he said: "[Virgil] van Dijk, he would help. Not because the others are not good enough but because in this position he is maybe the best at the moment.

"We had [Fernando] Torres and [Steven] Gerrard so we had lots of good attacking players, but as a centre-back – although I was really pleased with my players – Van Dijk is maybe playing at another level now."

 

Ousmane Dembele's agent remains adamant the Barcelona winger will play no part in a mooted swap deal involving Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar.

Moussa Sissoko, the France international's representative, insists his client is completely committed to spending a third season at Camp Nou.

LaLiga champions Barca are rumoured to have offered the 22-year-old World Cup winner to PSG in a part-exchange for Neymar, who continues to be overlooked for matchday squads by the Parisians.

Dembele's former Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel is now in charge in the French capital and has reportedly warmed to the prospect of a reunion.

The player himself appears less keen on the idea.

"Ousmane stays at Barcelona, 100 per cent," Sissoko told French broadcaster TF1.

"There is no chance he will leave. He wants to and will succeed at Barcelona."

Dembele has battled injuries and fluctuations in form since moving to Spain from Dortmund in 2017.

He started Barca's season-opening 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao but missed the 5-2 victory over Real Betis with a hamstring strain, which is expected to keep him out for around another month.

Los Angeles FC striker Carlos Vela was drinking pina colada on holiday when he discovered Barcelona were interested in securing his services.

The 30-year-old, formerly of Arsenal, was linked with a loan move to Camp Nou at the turn of the year after impressing for LAFC in his debut campaign in the MLS.

Vela scored 14 goals and provided 10 assists in 2018 and concedes he would dearly have loved a January switch to the LaLiga giants, who instead opted for Kevin-Prince Boateng.

"It was really close," he told BS The Podcast. "My second month for holidays, I was there with my pina colada and my agent called me to say 'look, Barcelona is calling you. They want you to play for four months then you can go back to LA'. 

"I said just say yes, I don't care about the money or nothing. I'm going to start training tomorrow, give me two weeks to be a little bit fit. 

"Barcelona, Real Madrid you can't say no... If it was only my choice, for sure, I'd take it."

Vela has built on last year's impressive return with a further 27 goals already this season and he outlined his intention to see out his playing days with the American franchise.

"It's not only the things I want, football is a business and you know how it works. But, if I have everything, I want to be here for the rest of my career," he said.

"I'm really happy here, playing in LA. I want to be here."

Alexis Sanchez and his horror spell at Manchester United looks set to be coming to an end.

Sanchez, who left Udinese for Barcelona in 2011, is reportedly poised to return to Serie A.

And his Italy comeback will see him reunite with a former Manchester United team-mate in Milan.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHEZ SET TO END UNITED NIGHTMARE

Inter have agreed a deal to sign Manchester United misfit Alexis Sanchez, according to widespread reports.

Sky Sport Italia, BBC Sport and Sportitalia report a season-long loan deal has been agreed, which does not include an option to buy.

Sanchez has endured a miserable spell at Old Trafford, where injuries and form issues have limited the Chilean to just five goals since arriving from Arsenal in January 2018, and he is set to reunite with Romelu Lukaku at Inter.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are optimistic Paris Saint-Germain will accept a proposal for wantaway superstar Neymar, according to Mundo Deportivo and reports in Spain. Barca and PSG held meetings in Paris on Tuesday. Le Parisien reports Barca offered €170million which would be paid in two instalments. Ousmane Dembele's name was also believed to be included in discussions.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane only wants Manchester United star Paul Pogba. That is according to Marca, as Ajax's Donny van de Beek and Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen wait in the wings.

- According to Tuttosport, Juventus have not given up on signing Inter outcast Mauro Icardi. The former Inter captain is not wanted by Antonio Conte or the club and while the Nerazzurri are reluctant to sell to Juve, the Serie A champions are waiting.

- AC Milan remain in pursuit of Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Correa wants to move to San Siro, however, a deal is yet to be reached. If Milan are unable to sign the attacker, they are reportedly set to turn to Gremio star Everton.

- According to FCInter1908, Inter are expected to sell Gabriel Barbosa to Brazilian side Flamengo. Gianluca Di Marzio says Gabigol will join Flamengo permanently in an €18m deal. The 22-year-old forward moved to Inter in 2016 but struggled to settle before spending time on loan at Benfica and former club Santos.

PSG are interested in signing Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic, claims Gianluca Di Marzio. The Croatia international has been linked to Manchester United in the past.

- Roma's Patrik Schick is close to accepting a move to RB Leipzig on loan. Goal.com reports the Bundesliga side have an option to purchase the forward for a fee in the region of €28m at the end of the loan deal. With Schick poised to depart, Roma have now been linked to Atletico Madrid veteran Nikola Kalinic.

- Napoli winger Adam Ounas has agreed to join Ligue 1 outfit Nice on loan. Gianluca Di Marzio's website says Nice have a €25m option to buy the 22-year-old, who left Bordeaux for Napoli in 2017.

Gerard Pique said he would like to see Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar return to LaLiga champions Barcelona.

Neymar wants to leave PSG and has been linked with a move back to Barca, two years on from his world-record €222million transfer.

Real Madrid have also emerged as a possible destination for Neymar before the transfer window shuts on September 2, but Barca defender Pique would be happy if the 27-year-old returned to Camp Nou.

"Of course we'd like him to come back," Pique told La 1 of Television Espanola.

"But it's something we can't control. We'll leave it in the hands of those who decide [these things] and from there we'll see in a few days."

Neymar – who missed the Copa America due to an ankle injury – is yet to feature for Ligue 1 champions PSG this season amid the ongoing speculation over his future.

The Brazilian forward was targeted by PSG fans during the home clash against Nimes on August 11, with banners criticising Neymar.

"He's thought a lot about everything and he's done everything right," Pique added.

Neymar has scored 34 goals in 37 Ligue 1 appearances despite both his seasons at PSG being interrupted by serious foot injuries.

In total, Neymar has managed 51 goals in 58 games for PSG – who have won two of their opening three Ligue 1 games in 2019-20.

Barcelona officially opened the new Johan Cruyff Stadium, which will host games for Barca B and their women's teams.

The new 6,000-seater stadium – located at the club's training ground in the suburbs of the city – pays tribute to the legendary Cruyff, who played for the Blaugrana between 1973 and 1978 before coaching them between 1988 and 1996.

Cruyff died in 2016 and is widely credited with laying the foundations for the unprecedented success the club has enjoyed over the past 15 years. 

Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets were among the Barca stars in attendance at the opening, which hosted a friendly between the club's Under-19s and a youth side from another of Cruyff's former teams, Ajax.

The opening followed on from Monday's unveiling of a Cruyff statue outside Camp Nou.

Barcelona's pursuit of Neymar has become the saga of the transfer window in Spain and they are rumoured to have met with Paris Saint-Germain for negotiations on Tuesday.

Neymar left Barca in a world-record €222million move two years ago and, although the Brazilian has generally impressed on the pitch with 34 Ligue 1 goals and 20 assists in just 37 matches, it has not been a happy marriage.

The player's attitude has not helped endear himself to the club's hierarchy nor supporters, as he has been regularly flirting with other clubs and engaged in public disagreements with Edinson Cavani.

PSG have seemingly run out of patience with him, confirming they are happy to sell the Brazilian for the right price, with the transfer deadline on September 2 looming.

But with Barca understood to be unable to reach the desired fee – reportedly in the region of the €222m PSG paid in 2017 – several players have been suggested as potential makeweights…

Ousmane Dembele

Signed from Borussia Dortmund as part of the initial splurge after Neymar's departure, Dembele's time at Barca has been curious. While few doubt his ability and potential, the French winger has missed a frustrating amount of games through injury at Camp Nou, while various stories in the media have suggested the 22-year-old isn't as professional as he should be. The latest transfer rumours claim Barca have offered €170m plus Dembele for Neymar – and they might not get a better bid, as the winger would be a like-for-like replacement. Similarly, if Neymar signs and Dembele stays, he could be the main victim of the Brazilian's arrival.

Ivan Rakitic

A Barca regular over the past five years, Rakitic's popularity among fans has steadily declined. While some supporters suggest that's down to him being a somewhat conservative midfielder, from the outside it seems the Croatian is being castigated for a lack of "Barca DNA". According to Sport, PSG were "delighted" at the prospect of getting Rakitic in the deal, understandably given a lack of midfield depth. He could fill a similar box-to-box role like at Barca or be pushed further forward, a position in which he thrived previously at Sevilla.

Nelson Semedo

Now into his third season at Barca, the Portugal international has slowly won fans – and Ernesto Valverde – over. The 25-year-old appears to have ousted the maligned Sergi Roberto at right-back, with Semedo's far superior attacking attributes suggesting he could yet be the Dani Alves heir Barca have been searching for. Le Parisien claimed PSG want Semedo as part of any deal to compete with – and likely usurp – Thomas Meunier.

Samuel Umtiti

Spending €25m on Umtiti in 2016 initially looked a masterstroke by Barca and he has generally impressed when in action. But injuries have wreaked havoc on him and he now finds himself behind compatriot Clement Lenglet in the pecking order. Links with PSG have gone quiet in recent times due to their strong collection of centre-backs and he would likely struggle to dislodge Thiago Silva, Marquinhos or Abdou Diallo when he returns from injury.

 

Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)

The curveball on the list. While it has been claimed Neymar only wants to join Barca, it's difficult to imagining him rejecting Madrid if it came to a choice between Los Blancos and PSG. However, for that to happen, AS believe the Ligue 1 champions will only accept a deal involving Vinicius. The 19-year-old looked a thrilling prospect in his debut campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu and would be about as close to Neymar – stylistically and positionally – as PSG can possibly get. How he may cope with the pressure of being his compatriot's replacement is another matter, however.

Neymar made a mistake leaving Barcelona and the club should do everything to bring him back, according to former player Rivaldo.

The Brazil superstar has been heavily linked with a return to the Catalan giants two years after he joined Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million deal.

A delegation from Barca was reportedly in the French capital on Tuesday to discuss a deal, which would need to be completed before the transfer window closes on September 2.

Real Madrid have also been rumoured to be interested in the 27-year-old, but Rivaldo – who played for Barca between 1997 and 2002 – has urged his former side to act decisively and not allow another club to purchase him.  

"Everyone knows what happened with Neymar. His exit from Barcelona was wrong; he never should have left one of the biggest clubs in the world. But now he is anxious to return and accept his mistake," Rivaldo wrote on Instagram.

"I hope the president and the other members of the board don't let him go to another club and that everything is resolved with PSG and he can return to where he never should have left."

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